John 1

Ian Henderson
Ian Henderson

From the age of 11-18 I grew up in Norfolk but then I moved to London and Essex and picked up a bit of a JAMIE OLIVER accent so my new friends are always surprised to find out that I am in fact what they would call a "country bumpkin". Maybe that's why I love it when I get the chance to tell people that Jesus was a country bumpkin too. Did you know that? The movies have brought us a posh, well spoken Jesus, we've heard an American Jesus but I've yet to hear a Jesus with a strong Somerset, Cornish or Norfolk accent. Yet this would be closest to the truth.

If you come from the country you will have learnt to laugh sarcastically as some "comedy genius" says in a counterfeit country twang:
"I can't read or 'rite but I can drive a tractor!"

Jesus had to hack this kind of prejudice too. I guess He must have been quite young when for the first time at Passover, after arriving in Jerusalem with the rest of his village, some of the local city kids started laughing at him and his mates for "talking funny". But it wasn't just the kids, in Jerusalem and some of the other southern towns, men from Jesus' neck of the woods weren't even allowed to read scripture in the synagogue because people thought that the northern Galileans couldn't pronounce the Hebrew words properly. You would think that with the rest of the country looking down their noses at them, that the Galileans would stick together but even in the Galilee itself there was a posh pecking order. John chapter 1 talks about Nathanael, another country bumpkin Galilean, who was gob smacked by the idea that God's chosen one might have grown up in Nazareth. "Nazareth!" the blown away Nat mutters to his mate Phil "Can anything good come from there!"

Today your school cool might be measured by what you wear or who you know but in those days it was all about where you came from. Rome was the capital of the world, the centre of power and prestige, the gold and the glory. To a Roman, "the promised land" was just some small, scummy country they had defeated. If for them, Rome was the head of the body, the land of the Jews was just an insignificant toe. And for a Jew, Galilee was the scummy blackened toenail, and for a Galilean, Nazareth was the smelly bit of dirt under the toenail. You get my point! Jesus couldn't have lived in a more unimportant, looked down upon, place in the whole world.

Also, living in the country during Jesus' lifetime meant facing extreme poverty. Today we wrongly tend to visualize the countryside as the place rich people buy nice houses, have pub lunches and drive big expensive 4x4s towing a horse box. But for Jesus growing up in Galilee meant that he saw many people dying of starvation and disease. Untouched and unhelped by the few rich people living in the cities. Depression, immorality, abuse, injustice, violence and corruption, which like an annoying little brother, always want to play with poverty and never seem far away, were no doubt also parts of "country life." In those days being a country boy was like living in the ghetto. Today's inter city rappers would have no problem spitting lyrics about Jesus' hometown.

So during a time when where you came from mattered, if anyone met this country bumpkin, with his e.i.e.i.o accent, his rough mates, his background of poverty and disadvantage- the last thing you would call Jesus was POSH!

So why did God choose to be a country bumpkin? God has a habit of gracing the gutter, picking the pushed out. It's as if he gets a buzz from showing up the sure of themselves by lifting up those, others think are rubbish. He loves to switch the price tags. Questioning what we value and marking up as priceless what we overlook. So is it surprising that when He decided to become human, to have a hometown, an accent, a childhood, a bunch of mates. He deliberately locks on to the laughed at and looked down on and makes it his own- it's what he has always done, and always will do. It's what he did when he chose me and it's what he wants us to do as we live as Christians.  CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.